The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) standing committee Wednesday hiked the development fund allotted to each of the 227 corporators through the ward committee by 150 per cent to Rs 1 crore from Rs 40 lakh. These funds are used to carry out petty works such as construction of pavements, minor slum lanes, bus shelters etc, by corporators in their constituencies.
Corporators individually also receive Rs 60 lakh every year separately as councillor funds. The 150 per cent hike in the development fund will increase the total amount available to individual corporators from Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.6 crore. Besides, the BMC also provides Rs 1 crore annually to each of the 24 ward committees. Ward committees comprise corporators, and their strength varies from one ward to the other.
In a rush to clear proposals and major policies before the Lok Sabha election code of conduct kicks in, the standing committee approved the hike claiming this has been a long standing demand of corporators. “With the election code of conduct likely to kick in soon, corporators will lose out on three crucial months in fair season for awarding work orders. In 2012-2013, many corporators could not fully utilise their funds for ward-level works because of glitches in the e-tendering system,” said standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale.
Former civic chief Subodh Kumar had scrapped the corporator development fund, which was as high as Rs 1 crore, in 2011. In August 2012, the corporation reintroduced the annual provision, paring it to Rs 40 lakh for each corporator.
With the hike, the total funds that corporators receive collectively stands at Rs 363 crore. This is the major ‘variation’ (change in expenditure when compared with the budget for 2014-15 presented on February 5) approved by the standing committee. All variations, including this, add up to Rs 550 crore in BMC’s budget estimate of Rs 31,117.2 crore for the following year.
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With the state scheduled to go for Assembly elections later in October this year and election code of conduct setting in again, doubts have been raised as to how the BMC corporators, who otherwise have a poor track record in fund usage, would spend the increased amounts in an efficient manner. “I am sure every corporator is capable of ensuring that funds are used before they lapse. Before the monsoon ends, contracts may be issued and finalised so that the works can begin in October,” Shewale said.
The civic standing committee Wednesday passed the BMC budget proposal for 2014-2015 with alterations amounting to roughly Rs 550 crore of the total estimate of Rs 31,117.2 crore. Besides an increased allocation of Rs 363 crore for corporators’ funds and Rs 50 crore for BEST, these new variations include a slew of populist measures for senior citizens, women and children, sports and cultural development in Mumbai. Some of these are:
- For every girl child born in a municipal hospital, a fixed deposit of Rs 15,000 will be created in her name which can only be broken once the child turns 18, so that the child can earn an amount of over Rs 1 lakh during that period.
- Children of property tax payers in Mumbai who travel out of the city or country for various academic/sports/art competitions will be financially aided by the corporation. A provision of Rs 25 lakh has been made for this purpose
- The corporation has allocated Rs 1 crore for promoting kho-kho and kabbadi groups in sports federations associated with the BMC
- Std X and Std XII students of the state board will be given free coaching facilities
- For senior citizens over 65 years of age, a budget provision of Rs 1 crore has been made. The BMC will provide free hearing aids and free cataract surgery
- Senior citizens, who have no children, will receive aid up to Rs 10,000 annually for treatment of ailments.